From the FAQ: Historically accommodation works out to about 40% camping, 40% hostels, and 20% “Other”. That can depends on the country, and how good my maps are.
The tour from Istanbul to Ireland lasted 112 nights (the nights of June 10 to September 29). I spent 43 nights camping (38%), 43 nights in hostels (38%), 12 nights in hotels (11%), and 14 nights in “Other” (13%). “Other” includes: Wild Camping (2), Guest House (1), Pensiune (2), Hospital (1), Friends (4), Cabin (1), Train (1).
Finding accommodation in Eastern Europe proved difficult, with few campgrounds, hostels or hotels unless in a larger city. In Eastern Europe I mostly stayed in small hotels (which cost less than hostels in Western Europe) unless in a larger city with a hostel. I avoid hotels when possible because I rarely meet fellow travelers there. All of the hotels I stayed at met my needs. Those hotels labeled “pensiune” tended to be the most sketchy.
At the most basic, a campground provides a bathhouse. In most cases the bathhouse provides hot water, and often houses the Wi-Fi. On the EuroVelo route, campgrounds were usually a bathhouse and shared open field, with cyclists scattered randomly. Once moving off the EuroVelo route, campgrounds changed to the more formal arrangement of separate defined sites for each camper, and sometimes distinguished between sites with and without power. Often a small on-site café offered a basic meal. In Ireland, land of inclement weather, campgrounds provided a common sheltered area, which often included a basic kitchen. The campgrounds in northern France which cater more to those camping from England and Ireland tend towards that same style.
The number of potential guests differentiates hostel from hotel. While some hostels offer single and double rooms in addition to dormitory accommodation, at the core hostels provide, for better or worse, the shared group sleeping experience that hotels do not. Beyond a bed and bathroom, many hostels offer a shared command area and shared kitchen for communal use, and more often than not they include breakfast in the price. Hostels can be divided into those hostels that are members of the International Youth Hostel Association (IYH), and those that are not.
IYH hostels generally provide breakfast, and tend towards larger and more institutional than the independent hostels. Many years ago, staying in an IYH hostel required a membership, carrying your own bed linens, and in some cases required individual travelers arrive under their own power. Over the years those requirements have relaxed. Only a few of the IYH hostels on this trip required membership, although some provide a discount should you also be a member. Those IYH hostels that require membership sell the memberships for ~ $11. I purchased an IYH membership in Lyon. They kept the membership card as the deposit for the room key, which I didn’t realize until 10 km down the road that I’d failed to return, and chose to abandon it. While I was willing to purchase the membership again, at the few IYH hostels that required membership I convinced them that I’d bought a membership in Lyon and they let me in.
Some paper maps display hostels as well as campgrounds, with less surety of their existence. OSMAnd+ (my GPS application) also listed hostels. Maps and OSMAnd+ worked off-line, helpful during those times I had no Internet access. While not 100%, HostelWorld (www.hostelworld.com) lists many hostels, and I often used the HostelWorld app to find and book hostels. Prices on HostelWorld let me control expenses, and the savings there generally offset my costs for Internet access. HostelWorld also includes a number of hotels. The reviews on HostelWorld vary wildly depending on experience and hostellers nationality, so reviews for cleanliness vary wildly, but the reviews can provide insights such as: “hostel sits directly over a loud bar.”
I originally intended to use CouchSurfing (Couchsurfing.com) and Warm Showers (Warmshowers.com) as alternatives to the more conventional places to stay, but in the end never availed myself of those services. I tried WarmShoweres in Istanbul, but between poor communications and the website not compensating for a poor response rate I didn’t use it again. Between my somehat random travel itinerary, inconsistent Internet access, and preferring to stay with travelers of similar inclinations, I never used CouchSurfing.
• Average/Most/Least expensive camping: $12.71 / $25.38 (Switz.) / $6 (Ireland)
• Average/Most/Least expensive hostel: $20.38 / $36.80 (Switz.) / $11.50 (Romania/Bulgaria)
• Average/Most/Least expensive hotel: $21.80 /$31.61 (Bulgaria) / $10.14 (Turkey)
Note: hotels and hostels don’t compare to each other well at all, since I never stayed in a hotel out of Eastern Europe.